I’ve never had a feeling like the one that gripped me when I placed my hand on that small brown Bible and read back the Attestation to the Quartermaster at ULOTC (University of London Officer Training Corps). This was the beginning of something new. Something I had wanted for a long time. Something that I still, genuinely, have no idea where it will take me. I am now officially a Reservist in the Army. That was just shy of five months ago and I’ve already learnt more about myself, teamwork and my country than I could have comprehended.
It’s a common experience amongst those joining that they receive unanticipated surprise from all sorts of friends and loved ones. I had no military experience prior to joining and, naturally, a lot of my family and friends were nervous about my desire to sign up. To them, it seemed to come out of the blue at the age of 23, practically a quarter-life crisis! I went to a normal state school, I was always more academic than sporty, and I worked hard to achieve my dream of going to Cambridge. I then began a career in the food industry – nothing that would ‘ring army bells’. I started to wonder, where did this deep-seated feeling come from? I can put it down to three things:
1) For the first time in my life, I had friends in the Army and I was seriously impressed by how it developed and pushed them. You’ll never find a more convincing case to join than speaking to someone already serving.
2) I’ve recently written a book (‘The Lengthening War’) which publishes my ancestor’s Great War diary. When I was researching for the book, I learnt more about my great-grandfather and the two MCs he was awarded during the war. It reminded me about how inspired I was by my grandfather and his WW2 service history (my favourite story of his was about him driving up Normandy beach in a jeep he waterproofed himself).
3) I was well and truly ‘in the office’ and thought life has to be about more than just this. Life is finite, it’s a precarious gift for us to use, to serve ourselves and others.
Not for one moment has there even been a thought of regret. I can’t tell you how good an idea I think the Reserves is – you effectively get to live two lives. The training is intense, the Army really packs a lot into your time with them because you’re part-time. After showing up at the barracks dead-tired after a long week at work, I’ve been amazed by how much energy materialises out of the sheer rush to keep up. From the very first weekend, I soon realised that any personal constraints I thought I had were only in my mind.
It took a long time to get to that hand on that Bible (application, interview, medical over three months) but I’m now in 12 Platoon, Haldane Company, ULOTC. Haldane is a unit for people out of University but keen to do the Officer training modules with hopes to Commission. In Haldane, I’ve completed the first of the officer modules – Mod A – and I am now working through Mod B. Hopefully this blog will take you through what joining, training and trying to become a Reserve Officer is like, hints and tips, and how to avoid the many mistakes I’m almost sure to make!
OCdt Michael Goode